Monday 23 October 2017

Shefflin and Reid shoot Ballyhale Shamrocks into decider

Ballyhale 2-17 Gort 1-15

Michael Fennelly, Ballyhale Shamrocks, in action against Albert Mullins, left, and Gerard Quinn, Gort
Michael Fennelly, Ballyhale Shamrocks, in action against Albert Mullins, left, and Gerard Quinn, Gort
Michael Mullins, Gort, in action against Joseph Holden, Ballyhale Shamrocks
Gerard O'Donoghue, Gort, in action against Keith Nolan, Ballyhale Shamrocks

Dermot Crowe

This was a much improved performance from Ballyhale Shamrocks on the more perfunctory one which won the Leinster final and still they held plenty in reserve for the All-Ireland final next month. Their veteran forward Henry Shefflin was declared the television man of the match, finishing the day with five points from play, but not all their marquee players were in that vein of form.

Having been an inspired marksman in the Leinster final, TJ Reid scored only one free in Tullamore yesterday. Even with that level of discipline in the Gort defence, they struggled to contain a team packed with outstanding players. The Gort full-back line was in trouble from early on, visibly conceding inches and pounds, and Cha Fitzpatrick, without being anonymous, was the only Ballyhale forward not to score.

Prominent in their win were their two midfielders, the less heralded pair of Bob Aylward and Conor Walsh, who shared six points from play. Both Gort midfielders, who were substituted, conceded too much room to their opponents.

Wayne Walsh came on in the second half and did his best to lift the team, scoring two points and denied a goal by a brilliant save from Richie Reid. But by then Ballyhale had taken a suffocating grip on the match and enjoyed a nine-point lead at one stage.

This was Gort's second All-Ireland semi-final defeat in three years - they lost to Coolderry in 2012 - but they could have no complaints. All but one point of the Ballyhale total came from play, with TJ Reid scoring a sublime goal in the 11th minute and his brother Eoin claiming a less artistic one three minutes after when he bundled the ball home. That opened a 2-5 to 1-3 lead and from then Gort were chasing.

Gort, who defeated All-Ireland champions Portumna in a dramatic finish to the Galway county final in December, started encouragingly. A darting run by Paul Killilea helped set up a fourth-minute goal for Richie Cumins, their top scorer on 1-3, and a lovely long-range strike from Greg Lally had them two points up after ten minutes.

Yet Ballyhale had the ability to hit them with scores in rapid succession. Early on, Patrick Reid had a couple of tidy points and Eoin Reid's clever tap-down set up TJ for his goal, a simple action completely wrong-footing the Gort defence and allowing Reid run on before planting the ball majestically in the top corner.

The goal had been coming. Gavin Lally had to make a critical save to deny Colin Fennelly a goal after the full-forward looked set to score when fielding in front of the Gort posts after two minutes. Fennelly spent most of the half at full-forward, before TJ Reid moved in there near the interval, and Fennelly's power and direct running caused problems for Tadhg Linnane. The Gort defender picked up a yellow card and was later switched with Mark McMahon as they tried to stabilise the line.

At one stage Ballyhale led by six points in the first half and by the interval their advantage was four, 2-9 to 1-8. Gort began the second half brightly with two points, but from there Ballyhale stamped their authority. Over a 12-minute spell they scored five points without reply, all from play, to put seven between the sides for the first time.

Three more on the trot widened it to nine. Their work was done. Killmallock await them in the final as they seek a sixth title.

Scorers - Ballyhale: H Shefflin 0-5; TJ Reid 1-2 (1f); E Reid 1-0; B Aylward, C Walsh 0-3 each; P Reid 0-2; C Fennelly, P Shefflin 0-1. Gort: R Cummins 1-3; G Lally (1 '65), M Mullins (1f), G O'Donoghue, G Quinn (fs), W Walsh 0-2; J Grealish, P Killilea 0-1.

Ballyhale Shamrocks: R Reid; K Nolan, J Holden, A Cuddihy; P Shefflin, M Fennelly, A Cummins; B Aylward, C Walsh; J Fitzpatrick, H Shefflin, TJ Reid; P Reid, C Fennelly, E Reid. Subs: R Corcoran for Cummins (37 mins); B Cody for E Reid (56); M Dermody for P Shefflin (56); G Butler for Fitzpatrick (58).

Gort: Gavin Lally; M McMahon, T Linnane, M Cummins; A Harte, Greg Lally, S Linnane; S Forde, J Grealish; A Mullins, G Quinn, P Killilea; R Cummins, M Mullins, G O'Donoghue. Subs: Jack Grealish for Killilea (42 mins); W Walsh for Jason Grealish (43 mins); C Helebert for Quinn (52); N Forde for S Forde (55); K Higgins for O'Donoghue (59).

Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary)

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